Skip to comments.Where Your Treasure Is: The Decline and Fall of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
Posted on 06/10/2006 7:59:23 PM PDT by sionnsar
The Episcopal Diocese of Pensylvania is now in crisis mode and the standing committee of the diocese, who have long neglected its responsibilities, have suddenly awoken from its slumber at the helm and demanded the resignation of Bishop Charles Bennison. I do not intend to question this demand - it is long overdue. I think, however, it is quite curious to see their motivation in making such a demand.
The leadership of the diocese stood idly by while the bishop attempted to drive every orthodox Anglican out of the diocese and any positions of leadership and impose his revisionist agenda. They ignored his refusal to accept orthdox clergy in the diocese. They raised no objections when one of their fastest growing parishes, St. Johns Huntingdon Valley, walked away from their building (leaving a shell of a parish behind) and joined the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA). They remained silent when the bishop attacked St. James the Less East Falls - an historic orthdox Anglo-Catholic parish - forcing them to leave their building and leaving only a handful of parishioners behind. They supported the bishops disastrous attempt to unseat Fr. David Moyer as rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd Rosemont by questionable means with the net result that Moyer, now a bishop in the Traditional Anglican Communion, is still leading the parish and the bishop and diocese is facing major lawsuits for their actions.
Bennison's animus towards the remaining orthodox faithful is not his only attack on the faith. He has declared Jesus to be a sinner in neeed of forgiveness, the Bible to be a book the Church could rewrite, and supported the ordinntion of an active homosexual to the episcopacy. And this is just the tip of the iceberg concerning his outrageous statements and dysfunctional behavior with the clergy and laity in the diocese.
Yet none of this is what has the standing committee up in arms. After all, a good deal of the leadership of the diocese are revisionists themselves and could care less about attacks on the Christian faith. What does have them upset is that the bishop has run the diocese into the ground financially. This tells us a lot. Jesus declared, For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also and the Diocese of Pennsylvania obviously treasures the endowments more than the faith.
And Charles Bennison certainly has been spending their treasure! From the expensive and ghastly renovations of the cathedral church that few attend, the millions spent on litigation against orthodox rectors and parishes (with more to come), the fruitless spending on diocesan renewal programs using a revisionist gospel that saves no-one, and the ultimate white elephant of Bennisons tenure in his plans for a retreat center at Camp Wapati, MD far outside the diocesan boundaries (and visible scrutiny). All the while, the committee took the bishop at his word that his fundraising plans would pay for his spending sprees, but now the bills are due and the reserves have been squandered.
Earlier this year, rumors of financial difficulties in the diocese had begun to surface as Bennison began slashing programs designed to assist poor and minority parishes and attempted to force parishes into mandatory outlays to the diocesan budget. Rectors of already financially-strapped parishes and those remaining strong parishes who did not wish their contributions to be wasted by the bishop who refused to give a proper accounting of the dioceses financial health. [sentence?] Finally, the fears of insolvency have forced the members of the standing committee to call for the bishops resignation (he refused) and [to] begin a full audit.
Now that the audit is conducted, things are far worse than feared. Diocesan trust funds have been raided and money transferred to support Bennisons spending initiatives and some of the funds are almost empty. In addition, seven million dollars have been spent on Camp Wapati without the diocese gaining ownership of any of the campground. Three of the seven million were spent not to purchase the grounds but to purchase and option to buy the grounds for an additional four million. The remaining four million was spent went to fund improvements to a campsite they do not own. Thus, after all the money spent, the net result is four million dollars' worth of improvements to someone elses property!
Now the diocese finds itself between a rock and a hard place. The only two exit strategies from this debacle [are]to walk away from the deal and take a seven million dollar hit, or to spend an additional four million and attempt to resell it for more than four million and recoup some of the losses. Unfortunately, no one in the diocese seems to know if the grounds are even marketable at more than four million dollars, to make the second option worthwhile.
Given this debacle, we now see the real motivation behind the standing committees desire for Bennisons removal. They do not care a whit about the bishop's apostasy from the faith but when he starts spending them into bankruptcy: that is an entirely different matter. With the diocese approaching financial collapse, now they decide to move.
Of course the great irony is that Bennison has done nothing the dioceses current policy wouldnt do in the long run anyway. If the diocese were strong and held to the faith once delivered to the saints, there would be growing parishes that could assist in overcoming any financial setbacks and, after some corrective measures were taken, could get the diocese back on track. But with revisionist clergy and adminstrators in place throughout the diocese, there is little hope the trend can reverse itself. Through their own departure from the faith once delivered to the saints, they have gradually driven the faithful elsewhere and left largely dwindling and aging congregations.
By removing the cushion of the endowments, Bennison has unwittingly exposed revisionism for the parasite on the Body of Christ that it is. Unable to gain new adherents or preserve old ones, revisionists are spiritual gelding who produce no offspring and support their destructive agendas with the monies contributed by past generations of the faithful. They live off the money and prior strength of the church until the well runs dry and the church collapses.
In reality, Bennison has only brought the revisionists to their endgame ahead of schedule. Perhaps they never imagined it would come to this
maybe they hoped it would be on someone elses watch. The bishop has merely turned decades of pathetic decline into a few short years of chaotic reckoning but the end result will be the same - the destruction of a once vital part of the Church.
What a very sad state of affairs.
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